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Dynamic vs Static Stretching: What type of stretching is best for improving flexibility?

Dynamic vs Static Stretching: What type of stretching is best for improving flexibility?

What is the difference between dynamic and static stretching?

The debate over dynamic mobility versus static stretching has been an ongoing one, but it’s time to explore this hot topic once and for all. For the purpose of this discussion, I will refer to ‘stretching’ as being that of the static variety and mobility as dynamic.

Flexibility is a fitness attribute that refers to the range of motion of muscle and connective tissues at a joint or group of joints. We all should be flexible enough to carry out our daily activities and exercise routines without being impeded by our range of motion. However, it is possible to have excessive flexibility in some or all of your joints but this presents its own unique set of challenges. This is referred to as hyper-mobility and there’s plenty of support we can provide to effectively manage your increased range if this is you. This blog mainly focuses on those that are inflexible and who want to improve their flexibility.

Mobility vs Flexibility: What’s the difference?

There is a common misconception that mobility and stretching are the same thing. The two are often spoken about interchangeably and while they both improve flexibility, they each serve a function and influence our tissues differently.

Stretching is a training method that enhances flexibility by passively lengthening soft tissue to achieve extended ranges of motion. Static stretching is generally ineffective in the long term as it only delays the stretch reflex temporarily and offers no adaptive stimulus to our tissues. On the other hand, mobility is an active modality that combines range of motion and expression of skilled movement. It not only lubricates our joints to achieve greater ranges of motion, but also actively stresses our tissues, providing a stimulus for adaptation.

Strength training can also improve mobility while making you stronger. By regularly moving our joints under load and through their full range of motion, we can preserve the extensibility and mobility of our tissues. This is especially important as we age due to the fact we lose approximately 3-5% muscle mass per decade after the age of 30. This understanding completely changed the way I perceive flexibility and why I highly endorse strength training at least twice per week as the bare minimum for health.

What type of stretching is best for improving flexibility?

So, should we stop stretching altogether? Not necessarily. It’s more about understanding the intentions behind why we are stretching in the first place. While stretching can be helpful, expecting overall flexibility to improve with just stretching alone might be a little optimistic. So with that in mind, incorporating mobility and strength training into your exercise routine can be incredibly helpful for improving flexibility, overall movement and function. Remember, at the end of the day it’s not just about being flexible; it’s also about being strong and functional.

Here’s a great mobility exercise to help improve your hamstring flexibility.

Exercise cues: Start in a standing position holding a slightly heavy kettlebell in front of your body. Hinge your hips back with a straight spine until you feel a stretch through the back of your legs. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds and then return to a standing position, repeating for 5 repetitions.

If your level of flexibility is getting in the way of your ability to live well, come visit us for an individualised assessment and together we can put together an achievable plan to get you moving at your best. You can book an appointment here.

By John Ibrahim

Physiotherapist | Kinematics Health + Performance